Bob Larson, CPC
Bob Larson, CPC

Career Report
October, 2008 — Issue 104

Hiring Continues Despite Downturn

Given the recent events roiling the economy—including the collapse of a string of Wall Street institutions–the outlook for job seekers is getting more and more challenging every day. But while nation’s unemployment rate is at a five-year high of 6.1 percent, with 159,000 jobs lost just in September, companies in numerous industries continue to hire workers. Clearly, the challenge for job hunters, experts say, is to stay focused on the opportunities, not the frustrations.

According to an article in The Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.), apparently oblivious to the headlines, the health care industry continues its relentless expansion, adding 27,000 jobs in August alone and another 17,000 in September. During the past year, health care has gained 367,000 jobs. And while auto makers may be cutting jobs, computer and electronics manufacturers are still creating them.

Government has also continued to hire, expanding its payroll in September by 9,000, and 17,000 the previous month, although this trend may slow–at least temporarily–as the economic slowdown shrinks tax revenues.

In the private sector, just because your industry is shrinking, don’t assume there are no opportunities left, said Frank Wyckoff, president of Snelling Staffing/The Wyckoff Group, headquartered in Eatontown, N.J. For example, the pharmaceutical industry is “laying off and hiring,” Wyckoff told the newspaper. “For every big company that is downsizing, you have a generic company that’s opening a new line and creating production, quality control, operator jobs and the white-collar support that goes with it.” Skills gained in finance or the mortgage business can be repackaged into a new career, he added.

“If there’s something you always wanted to do, now is the time to give it a try,” Wyckoff also said. “Take a step back and forget about all the baggage…and ask yourself: ‘What would I really like to do’”

And while some big corporations are downsizing, “there’s job growth in small companies,” said Harvey Bass, chief executive of the staffing firm Stracom Technologies in Sparta, N.J. “But these jobs are under the radar,” he pointed out. “They hire by word of mouth or referrals, and the jobs aren’t advertised or posted.” A displaced worker sometimes has a better shot at finding a job at a company with fewer than 100 employees, he added.

Bass suggested driving around industrial parks, making a list of the tenant companies, then checking them out on the internet. “A lot of these companies post jobs on their Websites,” he said. “They may have five or six open positions, and they probably have a tough time finding people.”

When faced with the loss of your job, it’s important to move quickly, experts say. The biggest mistake is to take a vacation after you get laid off, the article pointed out. Job hunting must begin as soon as you suspect your current job is at risk. Downsized workers often have to settle for less money to stay employed, though, but the longer you’re out of work, the harder it is to find a job.

The reality, Bass said, is that on the selling floors of the major retailers you will find “displaced executives who have found a home. It may not be what they wanted to do, but it’s work and it’s benefits and it’s not a bad thing.”

New Jersey Labor Commissioner David Socolow advised that those looking for new careers should consider fields that aren’t so vulnerable to cyclical contractions and can’t easily be outsourced, such as health care, education, transportation, energy production and research. The emerging “green” economy fits the bill, Socolow told the newspaper.

Also, the hospitality and entertainment industry, he added, “provides many jobs where you can climb the career ladder; it’s not just minimum wage jobs at the mall.”

Max Stier, executive director of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit whose mission is to “make government more effective” by raising the visibility of a government career, said: “The federal government [has been] in hiring mode because half its work force will retire in the next five years and we need to replenish the talent,” Stier said. “There are 193,000 mission-critical jobs that need to be filled in the next two years, and these are meaningful jobs helping our country solve its most pressing problems.”

The 2 million-strong federal force — with 85 percent employed outside the Washington, D.C., area — “spans the entire professional range of opportunities – astronomers, zoologists, finance, real estate,” Stier said. Indeed, “every private sector job has a close cousin in the federal work force,” he added. Something to think about.

News from BLK

BLK contractor and temp business sees growth in a tentative hiring climate. Administrative and professional requisitions increased over last quarter.

The staff of BLK will be well-represented at the upcoming 17th Annual Conference of the Garden State Council of SHRM. Michele Meussner, CTS, Susan Cocchiaro, CPC, PHR, CERS, and Joanne Ehlermann, PHR will attend the conference, which is being held on November 3 – 4 in Long Branch. Bob Larson, CPC and President of BLK, will be one of the featured speakers, discussing the topic “Staffing Firms – Invaluable Partner or Necessary Evil?”